Volunteer Spotlight: Neuroscience Major's Research Pursues ‘Moonlighting’ Metabolism Molecule

Dove-Anna Johnson spent last summer trying to determine what creates eating disorders.

Johnson, a University of Virginia student whose research is funded through a Harrison Undergraduate Research Grant, investigated the function of a molecule, p75, that has been known to be important in forming the nervous system, but which also “moonlights” in other jobs in the body, such as controlling metabolism and body weight.

Working in the laboratory of Christopher Deppmann, an associate professor of biology, Johnson, a third-year neuroscience major, started in one direction, thinking that p75 was acting upon nerve tissues and fat to reduce weight.

“Instead, upon conducting a new experiment where we food-restricted mice to eat for only three hours a day, p75 seemed to be important to regulate feeding behavior,” she said.


An Echols Scholar and College Science Scholar, Johnson is a member of the Daniel Hale PreMed Honor Society; American Medical Student Association; the Undergraduate Research Network; OneWay InterVarsity Christian Fellowship; the Cavalier Symphony Orchestra; and is a Madison House volunteer for Medical Services. She has also participated in the Women’s Leadership Development Program and GradStar, an initiative to support African-American students’ academic excellence and to promote personal growth and involvement in all University activities and programs. A graduate of Osbourn Park High School and The Governor’s School at Innovation Park, she plans to pursue a medical degree and a Ph.D. to become a physician/scientist.

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